Groesbeek's Freedom Museum has gotten its hands on remarkable photographs of how allied soldiers were cared for in the Nijmegen region. These photographs and their inspiring story will be presented at the Thiemeloods on this coming 18th of October. The photo album (owned by a British Y.M.C.A volunteer), contains never before seen pictures of the flooding of Elst; the Waalbrug as part of the front lines and the allied rest centres De Witte Molen and O42. The album also contains stunning images of the Y.M.C.A during the liberation of France and Belgium. All of these unique pictures also tell a gripping love story that took place in Nijmegen. The Y.M.C.A, or Youth Men’s Christian Association, is a youth welfare organisation. During World War II, the association also looked after the younger soldiers.
Two young people meet by a mill in Nijmegen, in late October 1944. The young man, Jack Speller, is a pacifist. During the war, he starts to feel morally obliged to fight national socialism. He signs on as a war volunteer at Y.M.C.A to serve coffee and tea on the front lines. The young woman is named Tonnie Kuijpers. She was a scout troop leader who was involved in the resistance in minor ways and was briefly jailed for her actions. They found each other and became lovers for life, an incredible team that looked after soldiers who were mentally unwell. This operation started out at De Witte Molen at Looimolenweg 17 in Nijmegen, and later moved to Oranjesingel 42 (also known as O42).
You can’t tell from looking at the young men in the photographs. They’re smiling and holding coffee mugs. Jack describes them as follows: “When the boys would ask us for cigarettes, we'd often ask them: ‘Are you even old enough to smoke?’ Later on, you'd see their eyes turn cold, and there was a general tiredness to their faces. It was as if they hadn't quite become men, but they were young boys with old mens’ worries.” Jack and Tonnie's rest centre looked like a regular place to take leave, so that the boys and men would face as little stigma as possible. It was a consciously invisible form of frontier care, which makes it less visible in war retrospectives.
Tonnie Kuijpers’ and Jack Speller's beautiful pictures and their story will be presented in the Thiemeloods on Wednesday October 18th at 19:30 (doors open at 19:00). Jack and Tonnie's daughter, Marcelle Speller, will speak about her parents (in English). Historical context for the pictures (in Dutch) will be provided by Rense Havinga, curator for the Freedom Museum, and Joost Rosendaal, historian with Radboud University.
The event takes place on October 18th and starts at 19:30 (doors open at 19:00). It ends at 22:00. Location: Thiemeloods, Leemptstraat 34 6,512 EN, Nijmegen Ticket price: € 7 per person. Museum Cards can NOT be used. Making a reservation is mandatory. This can be done up until and on the 16th of October at the latest by calling 024-3974404; or by messaging firstname.lastname@example.org. More information: www.infocentrumwo2.nl Facebook: /infocentrumwo2, Twitter: @infocentrumwo2 Instagram: /infocentrumwo2; LinkedIn: /company/infocentrumwo2